I spend a lot of time in this column and in Westminster promoting and celebrating the many brilliant aspects of our district and the towns and villages within it. And all of us who live here know that there is a lot we can boast about.
What can often be forgotten though is the vibrant commercial and business sector that we host. The Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency, which includes Boroughbridge and the surrounding villages, punches well above its weight when we look at world-renowned, innovative and growing businesses.
In my maiden speech to the House of Commons back in 2010 I named some of those businesses. The mere mention of a fat rascal and Bettys brought a rumble of approval from fellow MPs. There are many other national and international brands I have been pleased to support and promote – Harrogate Water, Spirit of Harrogate, Farrah’s and Taylors Tea to name a few.
My background before becoming a Member of Parliament was in business.
My last role before parliament was in Starbeck, with Bettys and Taylors, and before that I worked for large companies like Kingfisher, world-renowned businesses like M&C Saatchi and I have started businesses from scratch.
That is why I am so passionate about supporting entrepreneurs, the businessmen and women whose energy drives our economy and who risk their money to start and grow their businesses.
Our success locally has a bit of a sting in the tail. Unemployment here is at a long-term record low.
This means that employers often find it hard to recruit people with the skills they need from the local workforce. This can affect their investment and expansion decisions. It also is a cause of some other problems – a larger than average number of commuters into the district for work causing congestion being one.
I know that Harrogate Council is working to solve these issues through their Local Plan and their Economic Growth Strategy.
Harrogate College and local schools are also key to ensuring that the skills challenge is met.
Over the past eight years I have been privileged to visit businesses and see innovation in action across a wide variety of sectors – Reed Boardall, GSPK, Northern Energy, 9XB, CNG and Chameleon Technology are some of the names that spring to mind but there are many, many others.
My business background along with the diverse range of businesses in my constituency saw me appointed as a vice chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for business engagement.
This has meant speaking to businesses and entrepreneurs across the country. I know from those conversations how highly respected our local businesses are.
As we enter a post-Brexit world our businesses are more important than ever before. They are central to the future success of our country. We perform highly, both locally and nationally.
Government can only create the platform on which business can grow.
The fact that economic growth has been strong, that exports are growing, that we have reduced the country’s deficit dramatically and that unemployment is at record low levels is down to businesses taking the opportunities available to them.
Starting, running and growing a business isn’t easy. But when the business sector is strong, is innovating and investing we are all better for it.